Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Mary Jo Reiff

Committee Members

Jenn Fishman, Michael Keene


When teaching the rhetorical situation, English teachers often emphasize the importance of ―knowing one‘s audience.‖ As we move into a new century, it is important that these teachers consider their own advice. This project aims a critical lens at millennials – those tech-savvy, multi-tasking students who were born after 1994 – and aims to equip teachers with the skills, tools, and confidence needed to step out of the routine of skill-and-drill pedagogy in the language arts classroom and into the interactive, multi-modal world of 21st-century education. The project begins with an analysis of demographic information on millennial students that is relevant to instruction, and then moves toward practical strategies for engaging millennials in critical thinking about multi-modal texts. Rather than pushing to replace canonical texts with pop fiction, this project advocates for continued study of classics in the classroom by implementing new media into English curricula. Using Shakespeare‘s Hamlet as a model text, this study provides classroom-ready instructional strategies for using film, music, weblogs, cell phones, social networking sites, video games, and other media to engage students and bring new life to tired lesson plans. Relying on scholarship in new literacies and real-life examples, the study shows how adopting elements of youth culture in the classroom can create a bridge over apathetic waters, engaging students in fresh discussion of curriculum staples such as characterization, tone, and diction, while preparing them to use the tools of the Digital Age. The project serves as a call to action for teachers within the English discipline to research and implement new literacies and new media texts into their classrooms.

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